This week, police finally arrested a subject in the death of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts who was last seen jogging alone on July 18. The suspect in question is a Mexican immigrant named Cristhian Bahena Rivera. Naturally, it didn’t take long for right-wing media outlets, and the president himself, to hop on the story and use it as an example of the threat that illegal immigrants pose to the safety of Americans. But now, Tibbetts family is pushing against rampant attempts to politicize her death.
Not long after Rivera’s arrest, President Trump spoke at a rally in West Virginia and called America’s immigration laws “a disgrace.” He went on to lament Tibbetts’ death, calling her an “incredible, beautiful young woman,” before turning his attention on Rivera, who he described as an “illegal alien” from Mexico. He doubled down on this approach the next day in a video where he said: “We need the wall, we need our immigration laws changed, we need our border laws changed.”
Trump was hardly the only conservative to try and turn Tibbetts’ tragic death into a talking point on immigration. Several prominent right-leaning members of the media spoke out about the murder, including Candace Owens, Communications Director for Turning Point U.S.A. Owens called out liberals on Twitter for their supposed lack of outrage over Mollie’s death but Samantha Lucas, a member of Tibbetts’ family, replied to Owens tweet and criticized her for attempting to give her cousin’s murder a political spin.
hey i’m a member of mollie’s family and we are not so fucking small-minded that we generalize a whole population based on some bad individuals. now stop being a fucking snake and using my cousins death as political propaganda. take her name out of your mouth. https://t.co/xxZNBF0Uv9
— sam (@samlucasss) August 22, 2018
“I know enough about Mollie to know her political standings and that she would NOT want this to be used as fuel against undocumented immigrants,” Lucas also wrote on Twitter, before saying that “Mollie’s death is not political propaganda to bring up your ‘build the wall’ bullshit.”
Lucas was not the only relative of Tibbetts to speak out. Billie Jo Calderwood, Tibbetts’ aunt, wrote on Facebook asking people to “please remember, Evil comes in EVERY color.” Along with family members, several people claiming to be friends of the victim shared similar sentiments online.
According to Buzzfeed News, Rivera’s immigration status is still an item of debate. His attorney has claimed that he’s here legally, while others dispute that claim saying that he used false information to enter the U.S. where he’s lived for seven years. But even if Rivera is not here legally, Lucas is arguing that his horrific actions should not be an excuse to condemn all immigrants. In fact, statistics show that illegal immigrants commit far less crime than native-born citizens.